Arizona health director: Vaccination goal still within reach

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FILE - In this April 14, 2020 file photo Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey give an update on the state's pandemic response during a news conference in Phoenix. A judge will hear arguments Wednesday, May 27, 2020, over whether Arizona must publicly reveal the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths among residents of nursing homes. Christ has previously said she wouldn't release the information without a court order. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool,File)

Arizona’s top health official expressed cautious optimism Friday that the state can reach a goal of getting 70% of adults partially vaccinated in the next month.

“I just am fearful with our slowdown and decreased demand, it’s going to make it harder to reach that 70% but I’m hopeful Arizona would,” Dr. Cara Christ, director of the state Department of Health Services, said during a virtual briefing.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a “month of action” to urge more Americans to get vaccinated before the July 4 holiday. It remains to be seen whether the country will meet his goal of getting at least a first dose into 70% of adults by Independence Day.

In Arizona, less than half of the state’s population eligible to receive vaccines has actually been inoculated. More than 5.9 million doses have been administered so far. Around 3.3 million people have received at least one dose. More than 2.8 million have gotten both doses.

The state is excelling in vaccinating senior citizens. Currently, almost 85% of adults age 65 and older have been vaccinated.

Unlike some other states, Arizona has not created any vaccine incentive programs. However, officials are open to partnering on one-time events. The state is teaming up with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona for a family vaccine clinic Saturday at Chase Field, where the team plays. Anyone age 12 and above who gets vaccinated will receive a voucher for two tickets to a future Diamondbacks game.

There have been other incentives at the local level. In Pima County, the local health department gave out Arizona Lottery scratcher tickets at two vaccination sites over the Memorial Day weekend. A local chain of marijuana dispensaries in Mesa is offering “Snax for Vaxx,” a free pre-rolled joint and an edible gummy for getting vaccinated.

With a drop in demand overall, state-run mass vaccination sites will be closed by June 28. At their height, as many as 169,000 doses were administered in a week. Compare that to only 13,000 doses given last week.

The state will focus on working with contracted partners to hold more mobile vaccination events and promotion to underserved areas and populations, Christ said. Another factor for dropping these bigger sites is the increased availability of vaccines at pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and pop-up events.

Meanwhile, Arizona on Friday reported 346 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 20 more deaths. The state data dashboard showed the total number of cases and deaths are now 883,037 and 17,673, respectively.

The number of patients hospitalized statewide for virus-related reasons rose from the previous day to 590. Of those, 158 were in ICUs.

Arizona’s seven-day rolling average of daily new cases dipped slightly to 512.7 as of Thursday, according to data compiled from Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths also dipped compared with a day earlier to 8.4.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.